Centralia Power Plant

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Centralia Big Hanaford power plant
Centralia Power Plant is located in Washington (state)
Centralia Power Plant
Location of Centralia Power Plant
Country United States of America
Location Lewis County, near Centralia, Washington, United States
Coordinates 46°45′20″N 122°51′36″W / 46.75556°N 122.86000°W / 46.75556; -122.86000Coordinates: 46°45′20″N 122°51′36″W / 46.75556°N 122.86000°W / 46.75556; -122.86000
Status Operational
Commission date 2002 (gas), 1972 (coal)
Owner(s) TransAlta Corporation
Thermal power station
Primary fuel natural gas, subbituminous coal
cooling by system of artificial ponds

Centralia Big Hanaford power plant is a major coal-fired power plant supplemented with newer natural-gas-fired units. It is located east of Centralia, Washington, United States in Lewis County. As of 2006, it is the only commercial coal-fired power plant in the State of Washington.[1] A bill signed in 2011 by governor Christine Gregoire, the TransAlta Energy Transition Bill, will result in one boiler being shut down by the end of 2020 and the other by the end of 2025.[2][3]

Generating units[edit]


The two identical coal-fired generating units have a combined capacity of 1,340 MW. Both units started up for commercial operation in August 1971. (Bonneville Power Administration 1980 EIS)

In 2011, a deal was struck between the plant owner and operator, TransAlta, Governor Christine Gregoire, and Washington State environmental groups and policy makers to shut down the coal boilers. The first would be shut down in 2020, and the second in 2025, with a schedule of emissions reductions to be met along the way. The Washington State Senate approved the deal with a 36-13 vote.[3] To complete this transition, TransAlta is receiving an expedited permit, and is also exempt from any Environmental Impact Assessment that would otherwise be required.


In 2002, the plant capacity was supplemented with five natural gas-fired units. Four of them are 50-MWe gas turbine (GT) units, and the fifth is a 68-MWe steam cycle unit. The entire arrangement is known as combined cycle 4-on-1 where the exhaust from the 4 GT's creates steam via Heat Recovery Steam Generators (HRSGs) to power a single steam turbine. In 2014, the gas fired portion of the plant known as the "Big Hanaford Plant" was removed from the plant footprint and parted out to various buyers.[citation needed]

Fuel supply[edit]

Seventy percent of sub-bituminous coal used by the plant was delivered by truck from the nearby Centralia Coal Mine, which was a strip mine and the largest coal mine in the state of Washington, until it closed down on November 27, 2006.[4] Coal from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming has also been transported by rail to be burned at the plant since 1989, but was only used to supplement Centralia Coal mine coal until 2006. By 2008, the plant was burning 100% Powder River basin coal.[5] Recent rail upgrades to the Centralia Power Plant, and SO2 scrubber upgrades to ensure plant releases less pollution, will ensure the plant runs for at least another 15–20 years. Centralia currently burns nine 110 car coal trains a week.

Environmental and public impacts[edit]

Annually, this coal plant emits 350 pounds of mercury pollution,[citation needed] making it the state's largest single source of mercury pollution. Mercury pollution is a bio cumulative neurotoxin which causes brain damage in humans and is especially dangerous for children and pregnant or nursing mothers.[6][7] The plant also emits 7.5MMtCO2e, making up a large portion of Washington State's total CO2 emissions.[8]

All of the mining area is currently being reclaimed. When TransAlta bought the plant in 2000, it agreed to reduce emissions. It installed US $200 million worth of scrubbers on the plant, which were purchased from ABB Environmental Systems. Between 2010 and 2012, the Centralia Power Plant has been offline for an average of 4 months of each year. In March 2009, a proposed agreement between TransAlta and the Washington State Department of Ecology was announced, regarding a significant step forward in improving air quality in Washington. Key to the agreement is TransAlta’s willingness to voluntarily reduce mercury emissions by at least 50 percent by 2012 to address air quality concerns in the region. Capture testing took place in 2009 and an activated injection product was selected. The process will cost US$20 to $30 million over the next several years. Additionally, continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) for mercury measurement was certified by the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC). Currently, neither Washington State nor the U.S. federal government has regulations in place for mercury emission reductions. As part of the same agreement between TransAlta and the Washington Department of Ecology, TransAlta agreed to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 20 percent beginning in 2009. This is two to five years earlier than TransAlta would have been required to reduce NOx emissions if an agreement had not been reached with the Department of Ecology. In 2012, Selective Non Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) system was installed to further reduce NOx at a cost of almost $20M. It is in the commissioning and testing phase through 2014.[9] owner of Centralia plant and Washington State Ecology.

Contractors for the power plant[edit]

The design and construction of the new plant were by Stone & Webster and ABB Environmental Systems.[10]


From the early 1970s until 2000, the plant was owned by eight utilities: PacifiCorp (47.5%), Avista Energy (15%), Seattle City Light (8%), Snohomish County PUD (8%), Tacoma Power (8%), Puget Sound Energy (7%), Grays Harbor County PUD (4%), and Portland General Electric (2.5%).[11]

Plans to sell the plant began in 1998.[12] In 2000, Portland General Electric sold its 2.5 percent share to Avista Energy,[11] shortly before the plant was sold in its entirety to TransAlta Corporation for $554 million that same year.[13][14]


  1. ^ "Existing Electric Generating Units in the United States, 2006" (Excel). Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. 2006. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  2. ^ "SB 5769 - 2011-12". Washington State Legislature. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "TransAlta Agrees to Phase Out Coal Plant". PubliCola.com. March 9, 2011. Archived March 10, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ “Centralia mine to close, putting 600 out of work,” Puget Sound Business Journal, Nov. 28, 2006. Retrieved on 30 January 2009.
  5. ^ "TransAlta's Centralia Plant Earns PRBCUG Award". Power. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  6. ^ http://www.thenewstribune.com/2010/09/26/v-printerfriendly/1356827/for-childrens-sake-move-away-from.html
  7. ^ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=103
  8. ^ EPA http://ghgdata.epa.gov/ghgp/main.do. Retrieved 21 May 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ http://www.transalta.com/2009rs/environment/emissions/ and http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/air/TransAlta/Final_agreement/Transalta_signed_agreement.pdf
  10. ^ Tucker, Libby (28 August 2006). "Concrete strike has hidden benefit for NW construction industry". Daily Journal of Commerce, Portland. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  11. ^ a b “State allows sale of three private utilities' share in Centralia coal plant,” Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, Mar. 6, 2000
  12. ^ “Centralia power plant sold for $554M,” Puget Sound Business Journal, May 5, 2000
  13. ^ “Coal-plant sale was good idea at the time,” Seattle Times, Mar. 20, 2001
  14. ^ “Utah agency stalls sale of aging Centralia power plant,” Daily Journal of Commerce, Apr. 13, 2000

External links[edit]